Alabama To Remove 200 Patients From ADAP Unless State Approves $1M in Funding, Health Department Says
Two hundred HIV/AIDS patients in Alabama on Saturday will no longer be able to receive antiretroviral drugs through the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program unless the state Legislature approves $1 million in emergency funding, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports (Simpson, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 4/11). ADAPs are federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals. Alabama's ADAP last month sent letters to the doctors of the 200 patients who most recently joined the program. The letters stated that the patients will be removed if the state does not approve emergency funding for the program. Alabama froze enrollment in its ADAP in 2004 and currently has 525 people on its waiting list (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/15). Even if the Legislature approves the emergency funding, it only would help fund the ADAP through 2005, according to Marilyn Swyers, director of the East Alabama AIDS Outreach of East Alabama Medical Center, the Ledger-Enquirer reports. Alabama received $4 million of the $20 million in emergency federal funding that President Bush ordered released in June 2004. However, that funding ends on Sept. 30, and there is no federal funding to replace the one-time disbursement. The health department is asking for $4.5 million in state ADAP funding for the next fiscal year. On average, HIV/AIDS patients in Alabama who do not receive ADAP assistance must spend about $850 per month on medications, according to the health department (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 4/11).
"We're at a very, very scary time," Swyers said, adding, "We've come 23 years in this epidemic, and we feel like we're taking big steps backwards. It's frustrating. We have to tell people there's a possibility that you won't be able to get your medications anymore." State Health Officer Don Williamson said, "For some of the [ADAP patients], it's a life and death issue. Their virus is kept under control by the medication. Their immune system will deteriorate. Some of them will absolutely die" (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 4/11).